Juan D. Nichols 1931-2021


Juan D. Nichols passed away Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021 surrounded by his family following a brief illness. Juan was born on Nov. 29, 1931 in Coke to the late Marion B. and Fay Anders Nichols. He lived in Coke until the sixth grade, when his family moved to Pleasant Grove. He attended there through the eighth grade, when he began Winnsboro High School. He met his future wife, Jerry, while in high school and started dating her at the end of their senior year.

After high school, Juan attended college to become an ag teacher at East Texas State Teacher’s College in Commerce. He worked on the college farm – first in the dairy milking cows and later, to his relief, in the chicken houses where the hours didn’t begin quite as early.

During college, Juan volunteered for the US Navy rather than being drafted into the Army during the Korean conflict. On Jan. 15, 1951, he reported to the Navy boot camp in San Diego. Juan’s assignment was on the USS Doyle, DMS 34, near San Francisco. Jerry joined him and they married at the First Methodist Church in Vallejo, Calif. on May 18, 1951. Juan served his country proudly, with an honorable discharge as Second Class Gunner’s Mate on Dec. 14, 1954. He served all four years on the same ship but sailed the world.
By the time he was discharged, Juan and Jerry had started their family. They returned to East Texas in 1955 with their one-year-old daughter Marian, where Juan resumed college. Jerry says he was a bit shifty because he moved their growing family – now consisting of Marian plus twins Carolyn and David – five more times before finally settling back in Wood County, the only place Juan ever considered “home.”
In 1962, Juan began working as power use advisor for Wood County Electric Cooperative. He flooded the countryside with vapor lights and was quickly promoted to assistant general manager two years later. In 1968, he became the second-ever general manager of WCEC. In 1970, Juan and Jerry’s fourth and last child, D’Ann, was born. Juan worked for the co-op for 35 years, refuting any claims of shiftiness, retiring on Feb. 19, 1997 after putting his last child through graduate school. He was instrumental in founding the generation and transmission co-op Northeast Texas Electric Cooperative, he served as president of Tex-La Electric Cooperative of Texas and East Texas Electric Cooperative and was on the board of directors for Texas Electric Cooperatives. He was appointed by Gov. Dolph Briscoe as an admiral of the Texas Navy. He was appointed by both Gov. Briscoe and then Gov. Mark White to the Sabine River Authority.
Juan was always active in his community. During his years in Quitman, he served in various capacities at the First United Methodist Church, the Rotary Club, the Flora Masonic Lodge #119, the Sharon Shriners, the Quitman Christmas Sharing, the Quitman ISD School Board (once being elected as a write-in candidate after he had elected not to run again!), the Quitman PTA and the Wood County Airport Board. He was honored as Quitman’s Citizen of the Year. He was appointed as an advisory director of BTH Bank in 1979, became a director in 1981, served as chairman of the board from 1989 to 2014 and chairman of BT Holdings from 2007 until 2014.
Juan enjoyed traveling with Jerry throughout the U.S. and overseas and spending time with their four children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Juan loved people, and people loved him! He was an amazing storyteller. He lived life on his own terms. Starting as a barefoot boy in the rocky hills around Coke, he loved life until his very last breath, and we know he’s loving where he is now even more.
Left to cherish his memory is his wife of 70 years, Jerry Nichols of Quitman; four children, Marian Jackson of Flint, Carolyn Gilbreath and husband Harold of Coke, Connie Hamm Nichols of Winnsboro and D’Ann Drennan and husband John of Grandview; eight grandchildren:,Monica Jackson of Flint, Emily Gregory and husband Colby of Melissa, Chris Gilbreath and wife Taylor of Winnsboro, Callie Hays and husband Casey of Cedar Park, Molly Palmer and husband David of Fort Worth, Audrey Fadal and husband Tyler of College Station, Thomas Drennan of Grandview and Kat Drennan of Grandview; eight great-grandchildren, Hadlie, Coy and Reid Gilbreath, Charlie, Eli, Maggie and Ruby Hays and Eliza Palmer.
Funeral service for Juan is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021 at First United Methodist Church Quitman with Pastor Henry Suche officiating. Juan will be laid to rest following the service at his family plot at Black Oak Cemetery with full Masonic Rites. The family will receive friends from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday evening at Lowe-Gardner Funerals & Cremations.
Serving as pallbearers are Juan’s grandchildren, Monica Jackson, Emily Gregory, Chris Gilbreath, Callie Hays, Molly Palmer, Audrey Fadal, Thomas Drennan and Katherine Drennan.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make donations to Quitman Christmas Sharing Plus or the charity of your choice. Juan would love nothing more than continuing to give to others in his name.